There are several program learning outcomes for a Masters of Art in Education. By achieving these outcomes, the program prepares the graduates for the dynamic world of education with a diverse set of skills.
PLO 1: Instructional Planning for Learner Development
This learning outcome is recognition of the influence of different factors in the learning of an individual. Some of the implicated factors include the social factors, cognitive abilities, linguistic factors, physical patterns, and the emotional development of the learner. It is imperative that a teacher understands the influence of these factors on the learning process when planning for the approaches to instructions. This learning outcome requires the teacher to assess the performance of the students, both at the individual and group level in order to determine the changes and modifications in the instruction approach so as to meet the needs of the learners in the developmental areas highlighted above.
The learning outcome also requires the graduate teachers to use instruction approaches that are appropriate for the developmental stage of the students. It is also imperative that the approaches to instruction are sensitive to the strengths and weaknesses of the individual learners, their needs and interests. While these are some of the important actions for the teachers, their performance is also aided by knowledge of the process of learning, the manner in which the learners acquire skills and develop knowledge. This enables the teacher to design instructional approaches that are sensitive to these factors. An understanding of the influence of culture on the learning process, the learning outcome enables the graduate to integrate content that is relevant from a cultural standpoint in order to improve the background knowledge of the learner.
PLO 2: Differentiated Practice for Diverse Learners
The second program learning outcome is closer in concept with the first program learning outcome because it instills in the graduates the skill to align and differentiate the instructional approaches so that they can tap on the differences and strengths between the learners. The design of this learning outcome underscores the diversity in the cultures and communities in the contemporary academic environment and the importance of teamwork and engagement between the learners and the teachers. This program learning outcome prepares the teacher to determine the differences in needs and learning ability between the learners.
The program learning outcome also prepares the teacher to determine the resources and support systems that are required to enable learning in the contemporary learning environment. It is noteworthy that in determining the needs of the learners, there is a need to not only focus on gifted students, but to also assess the needs of students of with learning disabilities. This way, the instructional approaches used are sensitive to children on both ends of the spectrum. I found this element to be particularly challenging, especially when faced with the prospect of using resources that allow gifted learners to accelerate their learning without denying learners with learning disabilities an opportunity to develop their knowledge and skills at a pace with which they are comfortable.
The use of technology, particularly the internet has enabled me to develop ideas on how to overcome this challenge (Gunter & Gunter, 2014). Of importance is the understanding of the fact that the individual talents, experiences, prior learning, abilities, community values, language, family, social interactions and culture are assets that can benefit learning. This is knowledge that can include choices in instructional approaches in practice. Owing to the program learning outcome and additional research, I understand that a critical disposition in practice involves a belief on the part of the teacher that all the learners, despite their differences in abilities, can achieve excellence.
PLO 3: Assessment for Learning in the 21st Century
Learning is progressive when it is based on continuous assessment. The evidence generated from assessments helps the teachers and the learners to make decisions on the requisite changes depending on the needs. In recognition of this, the third program learning outcome for a masters of arts in education enables the graduates to design assessments that are based on evidence and to use them in the evaluation of the progress of the learners on an ongoing basis.
This learning outcome prepares the teacher to strike a balance between summative and formative assessments when indicated so as to support learning.
The design of the assessments should be aligned to the learning objectives. They should also use approaches that reduce bias. One of the elements from this program learning outcome that will inform my practice is the engagement with the learners in order to help them understand what quality work entails. Part of this element also entails offering the learners descriptive feedback on their work in order to help them understand the errors as well as enable them achieve progress.
In addition to the formative and summative assessment, the learning outcome also prepares the graduates use structures and models to help the learners examine their modes of thinking ad determine whether they are in line with the learning objectives for the unit, and exude the quality that is required. In line with the previous learning outcomes, the teachers are prepared to use the assessment techniques to the needs and abilities of different students, and use the empirical data to design instructional approaches that best exploit their abilities while meeting their needs. These elements are important for learning development in the contemporary learning environment where learners are characterized by diversity.
PLO 4: Leading Change through Research
The academic landscape changes in response to the changes in the general environment. For instance, the changes in the economic development necessitate a change in the academic front in order to provide the skilled labor required to drive the development. Additionally, the increased integration of technology in various production systems presents various issues for academics (Gunter & Gunter, 2014). It creates a need for new skills in order to provide the labor force required. It is for this reason that the fourth program learning outcome prepares the teachers to perform action research studies in order to address the educational issues from the local and global perspective. Through research, graduates with a master of art in education can help identify approaches to instruction and assessment that can help prepare the students better for the professional world (Smeyers, Depaepe & Keiner, 2013).
It is noteworthy that educational research does not just provide evidence for the teachers and other academic staff. While the members of the academic staff are interested in why certain approaches to learning are effective while others are not, other stakeholders in education, such as the policy makers are interested in the role of education in meeting both the economic and social needs. Through education research, the graduates are able to meet the needs in knowledge for these sets of stakeholders (Smeyers, Depaepe & Keiner, 2013).
This is a program learning outcome that I found very interesting. I would like for educational research to form part of my practice in future. Educational researcher would allow me to effect change on a larger context. This helps the charge for change and improvement in the educational realms. This is more significant in the contemporary learning environment where there are many frontiers for the new phase of change in learning development. For instance, it is worth understanding what role technology plays in the education process, and whether the current curricula are in keeping and evolve with the technological advancements in the economic world (Gunter & Gunter, 2014).
PLO 5: Dynamic Curriculum and Instruction in the 21st Century
Succeeding in a classroom in the twenty-first century requires the student to not only comprehend the content, but also develop the requisite skills and competencies (Wan & Gut, 2011). Being knowledgeable of the various concepts is not sufficient in the contemporary professional environment. There is a need to develop a variety of skills that reflect the needs of the labor market. These skills include critical thinking, adaptability training, curiosity for knowledge, and creative problem solving (Mishra, 2011). Additionally, there is the recognition of the role of technology in the work environment (Gunter & Gunter, 2014).
The implication is that the existing curricula need to prepare the students to be productive in this environment. The fifth program learning outcome recognizes these dynamics and in response prepares the graduates to design instruction approaches that are centered on the learner. It is also imperative that these approaches also align with the digital age standards, Common Core State Standards and the skills that are relevant to the twenty-first century (Wan & Gut, 2011). This is in order to enable the learner to develop and grow.
I have had opportunities in practice to implement some of the knowledge and skills developed through this program learning outcome. This involved revising a lesson plan for a mathematics class to include an interactive whiteboard to meet the needs of the learners who needed assistive technology to enhance the understanding of the relationship between quantities and numbers and to establish a connection between counting and cardinality. The revision of the lesson plan was an exemplification of the manner in which scholars used critical thinking to solve problems as well as make decisions towards developing a solution. I also made revisions to the student outcomes in order to incorporate the collaborations amongst their peers in order to find solutions to problems.
PLO 6: Professional Growth, Leadership, and Ethical Practice in the 21st Century
This program learning outcome is recognition of the importance of ethics in education practice, especially in the contemporary learning environment. In response to this, the sixth program learning outcome prepares the graduate to make deliberate actions aimed at achieving the sustained evaluation of professional learning. The program learning outcome also prepares the graduates to evaluate their actions and practice with regard to the impact of one’s actions and choices have on other people including the learners, colleagues, families and the community at large.
The aim of the evaluation is to determine what changes need to be made to either remedy or improve a situation. For instance, the graduate can use the findings of the evaluation to change his practice so that it is more reflective of a practice that is geared towards meeting the needs of the learners. This program learning outcome also prepares the graduate to seek continue growth professionally ad in leadership by engaging the available learning opportunities in order to develop one’s skills and knowledge. This is an important element in practice as it helps the teacher evolve and ensure their skill set are relevant to the ever evolving learning environment.
The danger of stalled development is that the skills set of the teachers are not in tandem with the requirements of the labor market, and as such, the teachers are not able to prepare the students who can be productive in the dynamic environment. It is the training on assistive technology that enabled me to review the lesson plan on mathematics to help the students better understand the concepts we were learning (Gunter & Gunter, 2014). This is testament to the importance of professional growth. The aspect of ethical practice entails the deliberate actions by the graduate to weigh the possible effect of various actions to ensure that they are in line with established standards.
PLO 7: Content Knowledge
This is one of the more important program learning objectives, especially when considering the current learning environment. This program learning objective prepares the graduate to his understanding and knowledge of the key concepts and subject matter of the various disciplines to create learning environments that are enriched with technology that that help the learner promote their achievements, creativity and innovation (Gunter & Gunter, 2014). It is important that the learner can attach meaning to the content taught in the various disciplines in order to master it. The mastery of the content will occur only if the learner deems it important. This places a challenge on the teacher to use tools of inquiry and structure the discipline to design learning experiences and environments that illuminate the importance of the concepts for the learner so as to enhance the mastery of the content.
This is very important in practice, especially with regarding to the delivery of the content. I am informed that the knowledge of the content on the part of the teacher is not sufficient. The ability to deliver this content in a manner that captures the attention of the learners influences their learning. In this regard, the teacher should employ multiple presentation media in order to guide the learners through the core competencies and enhance their progression. In the same respect, the teacher uses assessments and evaluations to determine whether modifications are necessary to the curriculum materials and instructional approaches in order to improve their accuracy and comprehensiveness. This enables the teacher to continually ensure that the learners benefit from the content (Gunter & Gunter, 2014). I had an opportunity in practice to help improve the mastery of content among the learners. In this instance, I had to change the instructional approach to help the learners grasp the concepts. The use of assistive technology bridged the gap to enable the students learn the mathematical concepts (Gunter & Gunter, 2014).
PLO 8: Communication and Collaboration in a Digital Age
A graduate with a master’s of art in education is prepared adequately to enable effective collaboration and communication with the various stakeholders. As highlighted earlier, part of proper instruction involves assessments and evaluation of the learner’s performance. It is imperative that the teacher is able to provide feedback to the learner so that they are informed of the inadequacies in their performance. This is a very important aspect of communication between the teacher and the learner, and has the potential to influence the performance of the learner afterwards.
A graduate of the program is prepared to assume active roles; roles which involve examining the work of the learners, communicating the feedback to the learner. The program prepares the graduate to communicate effectively with the various stakeholders, including the learner. The teacher is also a stakeholder at the organizational and community level with respect to matters education. At the institutional and community level, some level of planning is required to facilitate a quality of learning that meets the needs of the community as well as those of the learners.
At the institutional level, the teacher is involved in shaping the shared vision, the identification of common goals, the creation of a supportive culture and the monitoring and evaluation of the rate at which the goals are achieved. These are collaborative efforts where the input of the teacher is required in an exchange with other stakeholders. The learning outcome prepares the graduate to function effectively in this environment. It is also noteworthy that the teacher also collaborates with the families of the learners to determine the influence of the family unit in learning as well as solicit a support for the development and achievement of the learner.
PLO 9: Information, Media, and Technology Skills
This was arguably the most important program learning outcome. It recognizes the role of technology in education (Gunter & Gunter, 2014). It underscores the progress that has been made and the fact that the education sector is making efforts to keep pace. It represents a new frontier in learning where teachers do not just rely on the conventional methods such as books. The program learning outcome prepares the graduate to use diverse digital technological tools. The use of digital technological tools is not reserved to the presentation of instructional approaches. There is a lot of information that is relevant to the various units taught that is to be found away from the books (Wan & Gut, 2011).
The use of the technological devices available to the teacher is an avenue through which the teacher can access such information and use to enhance their instructional approach. The technological media offer recent information that may not be available in the published books at the time. The use of this medial helps the learners stay updated and informed of the recent developments in various disciplines. For instance, online journals and depositories contain scientific material from studies and experiments that may not be published in the conventional media at the time. By using the internet, the teacher can access such information and use it to develop the content used in the lesson plans (Wan & Gut, 2011).
The program learning outcome also entails preparing the students who are versed with the technological skills to enable them benefit from the informational goldmine that is the virtual world. In the same respect, the learning outcome understands the legal and ethical issues that surround the application of information technologies. I have applied this knowledge in practice, especially when instructing the students the ethical conundrum that is plagiarism. The graduate of the program is equipped to benefit and help the learners benefit from the technological installations while still cautioning them of the legal and ethical issues (Wan & Gut, 2011).
Challenges and Solutions
Working on the e-portfolio presented various challenges. However, the challenges provided opportunities to learn new skills. One hurdle that was particularly challenging was creating the artifacts and featuring them into the portfolio. To solve this challenge, I collaborated with colleagues who helped me with insights and approaches through which I could achieve this feat. I also performed research on the internet where I found various ways through which I could perform the task.
Gunter, R. E., & Gunter, G. A. (2014). Teachers discovering computers. Australia. Delmar.
Mishra, P. and Kristen K. (2011).What 21st Century Learning? A review and a synthesis. Degree Thesis. Michigan: Michigan State University.
Smeyers, P., Depaepe, M., & Keiner, E. (2013). The importance and effects of institutional spaces. Dordrecht: Springer.
Wan, G., & Gut, D. M. (2011). Bringing schools into the 21st century. Dordrecht: Springer.